By Michelle Graff
Palm Springs, Calif.—Lenore Dailey, the beloved antique jewelry dealer who was a fixture at trade shows, died Wednesday evening at her home in Palm Springs, California following a nearly three-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

Dailey worked in a number of fields, including interior decorating, before discovering her passion—antique jewelry, said Alyssa Lynn.

Lynn is a third-generation antique jewelry dealer who runs her family’s Los Angeles-based business, Mary Ann-Tiques. Her mom and Dailey were so close, they were like sisters, and Lynn grew up calling Dailey her aunt.

She said Dailey’s entrée into the business was hair jewelry (meaning jewelry that incorporated human hair), which was not in demand when she started some 30 years ago.

“At the time, nobody wanted it,” Lynn said.

But Dailey stayed true to her interests, specializing in hair and mourning jewelry from the Victorian and Georgian eras and even earlier, never getting more modern than Art Deco (and even stocking very little of that).

“She found a niche in the business, and she loved it,” Lynn said, “and she made everybody else love it too.”

Over the years, Dailey kept growing her eponymous business and started exhibiting at trade-only as well as consumer-facing jewelry shows on the East Coast, while also encouraging her friends at Mary Ann-Tiques to branch out from the West Coast.

Her booth become a must-visit at every trade show she attended, from Miami to Michigan to Maryland to Vegas.

She also served as a font of well-researched information for collectors, other dealers and editors alike, including the editors of National Jeweler.

Antique and collectibles expert Harry Rinker, who considered Dailey a close friend, said she was his primary consultant in assembling his wife’s Victorian Era jewelry study collection, and also was his “go-to” person for questions on Victorian and Edwardian jewelry.

“Lenore’s greatest strengths were her gregarious personality, her ability to personalize a piece of jewelry using historical facts and anecdotal stories, and her willingness to share knowledge without expecting anything in return,” he wrote in an email to National Jeweler Thursday.

“She made jewelry come alive. She was as much a teacher as she was a dealer.”

Despite her vast knowledge, Dailey never would have described herself as an antique jewelry “expert.”

In a 2014 interview with National Jeweler on Georgian mourning jewelry, Dailey demurred when asked about being labeled an expert on mourning jewelry, instead referring to herself as an “enthusiastic collector with much to learn.”

News of Dailey’s passing was shared on her Instagram account, @lenoredailey, on Thursday.

“We cannot possibly express our feelings of loss,” the post read. “Lenore will continue in treasured memory and is expressed in the abundant beauty that she shared with everyone.

“Her kindness and generosity will continue on through all of you, follow your passions and go buy a jewel!”

Word of Dailey’s passing spread quickly, and those in the jewelry community began sharing photos and memories of the beloved antiques dealer, including Danielle Miele (@gemgossip), Becky Stone (@diamondsinthelibrary) and Cathleen McCarthy (@thejewelryloupe).

Lynn said Dailey had no children of her own but became a mother figure to many young people in the jewelry industry; Stone described her as “our antique jewelry fairy godmother.”

Katrina Canady, show manager for U.S. Antique Shows, which runs the Las Vegas Antique Jewelry & Watch Show among many others, said her mentorship is a major piece of Dailey’s legacy.

“When I think of Lenore, whom I have known for 13 years, I immediately think about how supportive she was of young, up-and-coming dealers and collectors, especially women,” she said.

“She would generously give these young women her time and take them under her wing, selflessly sharing her knowledge and showing them the ropes. She will be deeply missed by me personally and by everyone in our U.S. Antique Shows community.”

Lynn said services are scheduled to take place Feb. 20 in Palm Springs.

She said Dailey’s Instagram account will remain active, as she has tons of inventory. Instagram users will still be able to see and purchase her items.

In addition, they will keep “Lenore Dailey LLC” on the booth at trade shows—which she usually splits with Mary Ann-Tiques—and Dailey’s inventory will still be sold there as well.

“She’s going to still be going,” Lynn said. “That’s what she really wanted.”

TAGS:   Obituaries
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Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.